Fabrics are tricky to draw because of all the folds and complicated shading. In this tutorial I will show you how to go about drawing two different types of fabric: smooth and flowing, like silk, and rough and thick, like wool.
How to Draw Fabric: Silk and Wool
You can follow me step by step to achieve the same results, or use the techniques I present in your own projects.
What You Will Need
- Some sheets of paper
- HB pencil
- 2B pencil
- 4B pencil
- 6B pencil
- Blending stump/tortillon/cotton swab
- Pencil sharpener
1. How to Draw Silk Fabric
Start with an oval—this will be the top of the cylinder the fabric is laid upon. Use the HB pencil for this.
Draw another, bigger oval below. This will create a smooth edge of fabric dragged down by gravity, but not stuck to the edge of the cylinder.
Draw the direction of the fabric going down the cylinder. The stiffer the fabric, the wider the angle.
Draw the edge of the fabric and plan its folds. You can be creative here—just don’t cross the line.
Draw the edges of the fabric as suggested by the fold line. The more acute the angle of the fold, the clearer the line.
Add more guide lines near the top to finish defining the flow of the fabric.
Take the eraser and clean up the unwanted lines.
Tilt your pencil and subtly shade the top. We’re going to leave some shine near the edge.
Use the blending stump (or other blending tool) to soften the shading.
Shade the edge subtly.
Take the 2B pencil and accentuate the shading. Silk is all about contrast!
Take the eraser and give shine to a part of the edge.
Go back to the HB pencil, tilt it, and shade the surface of the fabric. Be careful not to remove the lines in the process—you can press harder in the shadows to keep the folds visible.
Use the blending stump to soften the shading.
Take the 2B pencil and shade the folds one by one. No matter if the fold is convex or concave, always leave a stripe of shine in the middle—this is characteristic for silk. Use the blending stump when finished.
Leave the directly illuminated part with less contrast. Also, notice how the shiny stripes connect in arcs near the top, where there are no folds.
Take the 4B pencil and increase the contrast even more. Don’t forget about blending!
Finish the drawing by dragging your eraser along the shiny stripes to make them stand out even more. Feel free to use the 6B pencil in the darkest crevices, but use it sparingly. If your fabric is supposed to be darkly colored, darken the whole picture, keeping only the highlights white.
2. How to Draw a Woollen Sleeve
Start with something to put in the woollen cloth. This can be a simple elbow. Use the HB pencil for this phase.
Envelop the arm in curvy lines. The more there are, the looser the cloth will seem. Keep them tight where the material bends.
Use the curves as a suggestion for the flow of the material. First draw one side…
… then the other…
… then fill the middle.
This technique helps you see the folds as what they really are—the bending of a single piece of material, not something separate stuck to the material.
Work out the folds the guide lines are suggesting. Draw their edges, just like with the silk.
Darken the shaded part with a side of the HB pencil. Don’t blend it!
Include the folds in the shading.
Take the 2B pencil and create more detailed shading.
Take the HB pencil again and draw the rows of the thread. You can make them narrower if you want a softer look.
Add the details to every row. Simple ‘V’s all along the row are all you need.
Take the 6B pencil to accentuate the darkest part of the picture. This will be a point of reference for contrast.
Take the 4B pencil and darken the shaded part some more, including the rows in the border between light and shadow. This will make the texture more 3D.
Finally, take the 6B pencil and subtly add detail to the shaded parts. Simple dark dots along the rows will give them depth and a detailed look. Don’t leave any wide bright surfaces—”break” them with some irregular shadow.
Now you know how to draw fabrics, no matter what their physical properties are. If you want to keep learning about drawing various textures, check out my other tutorials from this series:
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